Vagabond Opera – Sing For Your Lives! – self-published

by | Oct 7, 2011 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

Vagabond Opera – Sing For Your Lives! – vagabondopera.com [9/13/11] ****:
(Eric Stern, Robin Jackson, Ashia Grzesik, Jason Kriov Flores, Skip Vonkuske, Mark Burdon)
The latest CD from the Portland, Oregon-based troupe is somewhat at a disadvantage  because half the fun of the wild and wooly performers is seeing them live. They create a whole little world on their stage, with costumes, story-telling, and scene-setting for their various numbers— most of which are their original compositions. Their goal is to pack the drama of opera into a sort of wild cabaret show, but you won’t hear a recital of familiar opera arias. The main vocalist is tenor and accordionist Eric Stern, but several others join in on some numbers, including Polish soprano Ashia Grzesik, who also plays cello, and used to be in Cirque de Soleil.
Between them, the members use accordion, piano, sax, clarinet, percussion cello, bass, guitar, mandolin, drums and sometimes toy instruments.  They draw on Old World elements, especially in the tunes and rhythms of both Yiddish and Balkans-area folk music and dances.  Leader Eric Stern was a nut about grand opera and while at a rock concert he thought to himself: “Why does opera have to be in an opera house, some place that seems inaccessible to so many?”  So he fell in with kindred spirits in Portland’s freak-friendly art and music scene and Vagabond Opera was born.
They may switch instantly into such territories as Kurt Weill, Django Reinhardt, Turkish belly dancing, klezmer music, a tango, Eastern European folk style, Greek folk dance, who knows.  As with standard opera, I could have used a libretto of the songs, but Stern belts most of them out so well you can probably make out enough to get the idea.
TrackList:  Red Balloon, Tough Mazel, Beard and Moustache, Coimbra, Penny, King of the Gypsies, Spirit Dances Evermore, Lullaby, Hanumonsoon, The Last Dance, Sing for Your Lives.
—John Sunier

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